From Bill Sell

OffRamp: Love Letter

Published in the Bay View Compass, December 2004

Once upon a time in a neighborhood not far away, I learned the secret of the Little Prince, to see with my heart. Nancy, Martha, Betsy, Evelyn, Patricia, Sue, and later, Maria, Susan, Jenny, Barb, this is a love letter to you, women whose place in my heart is forever.

When my marriage broke up, you offered an extended family to the three of us. I suspect you envied that my son David cried for me at night. Clearly you were not fond of some men. We watched in shock as a guy ripped his son from our circle. He complained of sober, conservative Milwaukee as a Gomorrah. He meant to slay my happiness at your picnics. Remarrying in haste, he hid his boy child in the woods.

I was not raised like that. My friend Tom’s house smelled of urine. Plaster fell as we talked. He and his sister’s dirty faces remain in our 5th grade class portrait. Not that poor, we could afford soap. The other neighbors used fragrances and sunned in Texas. My parents believed sin was something you did, not who you are, and so we played on both lot lines.

Cute David conned you, didn’t he? What strange “bedfellows” he made of us, but my heart was glad. Blood relatives advised me “let it go” as I can imagine some advised St. Joseph after the First Christmas. Mother and child? “Not yours, not yours.” I, too, looked for love in the night and found comfort in strangers and angels. Fringe folks that the Bible nonchalantly would bed in a stable for the night rescued me.

The “Queer” for some tribes was a special gift from the god. And so in America, being the friend of a woman helps us men keep our heads on straight. Consider it a gift. Downshift your frat image. Be the human, made in God’s image (“I am who I am.”). She is who she is—or he is not.

While this is wholesome, it flies in the face of the mad fad—priapic Constitutional Amendments inflating male self worth—Hail Male, Full of Grace, brains impregnated by the Holy Boast, social engineering based on a single text in the Bible. (So, is stoning next?)

Parent-Child Separation Amendments (or Gay Marriage Bans) leave children behind. Their parents are bereft of the child-rearing help they would get from hundreds of rights earned by marrying.

The earthquake is inevitable. At this new fault line in law, trial attorneys will approach the bench to defend these children. On the side of patriarchy, they will try to bring the blessing of law to all families. Many will welcome their help. But I am witness to something else; I know a living room open to all women, baby co-ops and shared meals, and houses safe from men who carry guns. Extended families are the wagons circling again, stronger than the one man, the one wife, the one shot gun.

Oh, fanatics cry, marriage is for procreating! Oh my. Like planting semen is parenting. You can’t learn it all in bed. If they believe sexual intercourse is parenthood, ask a farmer if planting seed is the whole of farming. Ask the divorced mother of five.

That you took David on your lap and read him to sleep saved his mind from our poverty. The neighborhood, too, is a parent who can rescue us from the flaws of our families.

To women of like mind, and to simpatico men, I send my life-long thank you. America lies to guarantee a supply of enemies. Too wild to live next door — the original settlers. Eight-hour day strikers in Bay View are lazy — governor orders them gunned down. And now swaddled in oil, entertainment, and fat food, fat America accuses gays of a hedonistic agenda. You are next as it prepares to entertain itself dismantling your family life.

But you can prevail.

By genes or choice, abstain from men if you wish. This is America. Don’t like the religion the government is establishing for you? Found your own. Make a ceremony and call it marriage if you want marriage. This is America. Wear a hajib if you want. This is not France. Collectives are are strong. Love is stronger than hate. And there is no justice without love. Deflect whatever our sexist culture throws at you. Building women’s collectives, self-help centers, safe harbors, and support groups seem to me closer to that Christian Gospel than all the king’s horses and all the king’s men ganged up to splay you in public.

And after America wakes up from its post-evangelical drunk—and, Amazing Grace, it will—we won’t say we’re sorry, but we will whisper among ourselves: “See how they love one another.”

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